You’ve set the budget. You’ve set the date. Time to find your dress! Here are a few tips to get you started:
Do your research
It’s helpful to know what styles are available. Do you like lace? Love sweetheart necklines? As you look online and in bridal magazines, take note of the styles you are drawn to. The more information you can give your bridal stylist, the easier your shopping trip will be.
While some bridal boutiques are more than happy to accommodate walk-ins, others are not. Just to be safe, it’s best to go ahead and call or go online to set an appointment to look at gowns.
You’ve done your research. You know what you like, but sometimes your bridal stylist will bring you something unexpected. Give it a try! The worst that could happen is that you don’t like it. However, many brides have found “the one” this way.
Choose your shopping time wisely
Weekends are exceedingly busy for bridal salons, so if you’re averse to crowds, try shopping on a week night. Love a party? The weekends might be perfect you. I’ve seen brides who were perfect strangers meet during shopping and forge new friendships. It’s up to you and your personality/shopping style.
Give yourself enough time to order
If you’re ordering a bridal gown, it can take up to six months to arrive. Once your gown arrives, you’ll need to have it fitted. Occasionally, you’ll need to be fitted more than once. This can take up to six weeks (or longer), depending on your alterations specialist’s turn-around time. Don’t have six months until your wedding? No worries! There are shops that sell gowns directly off the rack. Just be sure to get your dress altered as soon as possible to avoid any rush fees.
Setting your budget is the first step to planning your wedding. It’s hard to book a venue, schedule a photographer, or buy your dress until you know how much you can spend!
You and your future spouse need have an honest conversation about what you feel comfortable spending. Are your families contributing? If so, is it a dollar amount? Or are they paying for a particular expense?
Here are a few more things to keep in mind while constructing your budget:
Regardless of the dollar figure, the key is to set a budget that’s manageable for you and your family. You can get creative from there!
Don’t go in to debt
Since this is such an important celebration, it can be tempting to set a massive budget and take out loans to cover expenses. Everyone’s situation is different. In some cases, loans may be necessary. However, if possible, give yourself the wedding gift of minimal debt. Financial stress is the last thing you want to concern yourself when you return from your honeymoon.
Categorize and track your Spending
Once you’ve landed on how much you’d like to spend, break your budget down by category. For example:
- Ceremony- venue cost, flowers, officiant, guest book, decor
- Reception- venue cost, catering, cake, centerpieces, DJ, alcohol, linens, rentals, favors, etc.
- Fashion & Beauty- dress, shoes, alterations, underpinnings, accessories, tuxedo, hair, make up, wedding bands, bridesmaid/groomsmen apparel (if you will be covering those expenses)
- Additional Costs- invitations, postage, marriage license, transportation, lodging, wedding planner or other service providers, etc.
From here you can assign a dollar amount (or a percentage of the budget) to each type of expense. On average, nearly 40% of the overall budget should be allotted toward reception costs.
Track your spending! Whether you use a spreadsheet or a budgeting app, save and enter all receipts/invoices regularly.
Adjust your spending as you go
To keep things balanced, if you’ve splurged or overspent in one category, pull back your spending in another area. It’s also wise to set aside a “rainy day” fund in the event of overspending.
One budget-friendly reception style is the dessert-only affair. Cake and cupcakes are just the beginning. What about adding a gorgeous buffet of cookies, pies, doughnuts, cheesecake, brownies, or chocolates? It’s a great way to bring out the kid in your guests!
Speaking of kids, a “design your own cookie” station is an interactive way to entertain little ones (and the young at heart) at your reception. All you need is:
- A table with a plastic covering
- Sugar or gingerbread cookies
- Frosting in piping bags
- Sprinkles or candy toppings
- cellophane wrappers for guests to take their creations home
Whether you opt for professionally prepared desserts or the home-made variety, make your dessert buffet stand out by finding a charming mix of platters to serve from. This is where you can infuse even more of your style in to the reception. Family members may have luxurious silver, or attractive vintage platters you could borrow. If you prefer a little whimsy, you can usually find out-of-the-ordinary items at antique stores and flea markets.
If you choose to host a dessert reception it is best to note this on your invitations, so guests know what to expect. Also, as some guests may be diabetic, having a few sugar free or savory snacks would be helpful.